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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goold: What age is too aged to be a prospect?

There is no real answer.

The St. Louis Cardinals, as described by farm director Jeff Luhnow, have studied how high-end players — the top-notch, elite, standout prospects — reach the majors in their early 20s, and how they excel because of that. Colby Rasmus, who was 22 for most of this last season (his rookie season), fits that model. That trend, Luhnow has said before, is part of the reason why the organization adopted a more aggressive promotion approach a few seasons ago, and why young players Eduardo Sanchez, Richard Castillo, Daryl Jones and a few others were pushed up a level. Even some of the Cardinals’ international signings have been hastened into a short-season club to see how well they adjust a more demanding level. (See Yunier Castillo and a couple others, as discussed in yesterday afternoon’s entry about the system’s depth at shortstop.)

The question presented in comments is about youth, it’s about the late twentysomethings, like David Freese.

A few of my colleagues believe that there is an age when a player’s prospect status is revoked. Once you’re able to rent a car, you’re no longer eligible to be a prospect.

Thanks to Cloth Fairrags.

Repoz Posted: October 20, 2009 at 04:22 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cardinals, minor leagues, prospect reports, scouting

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   1. flournoy Posted: October 20, 2009 at 04:41 PM (#3359404)
How old do you have to be to rent a car? And isn't the question better phrased, "How old do you have to be for a reputable car rental company to rent a car to you?" I've always heard the age 25 bandied about for that, but I rented a car when I was 23 with no trouble.
   2. esseff Posted: October 20, 2009 at 04:42 PM (#3359405)
I'm voting for that whipper-snapper Amaury Cazana.
   3. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: October 20, 2009 at 04:49 PM (#3359413)
This slightly lessens my hopes of being discovered at Spring Training next year when I'm 35. I guess I'll get drunk and watch The Rookie again.
   4. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: October 20, 2009 at 04:56 PM (#3359423)
That trend, Luhnow has said before, is part of the reason why the organization adopted a more aggressive promotion approach a few seasons ago, and why young players Eduardo Sanchez, Richard Castillo, Daryl Jones and a few others were pushed up a level.


This is idiocy. Elite players reach the majors in their early 20s because they have elite tools and skills, and demonstrate that they are beyond the level of minor league ball. You can't force non-elite prospects into that status by arbitrarily promoting them.
   5. JPWF13 Posted: October 20, 2009 at 05:00 PM (#3359429)
That trend, Luhnow has said before, is part of the reason why the organization adopted a more aggressive promotion approach a few seasons ago,


What #4 said, I was also going to mention that the Mutts adopted this philosophy as well.

But this is the kind of stupid reasoning you see by some in every industry- someone will notice a correlation and infer some kind of reverse causation-and act on that inference.
   6. RJ in TO Posted: October 20, 2009 at 05:05 PM (#3359435)
How old do you have to be to rent a car?


I believe the minimum age is generally 21, but most companies will either not rent to someone under 25, or will charge an extremely hefty insurance fee for someone under 25.
   7. flournoy Posted: October 20, 2009 at 05:09 PM (#3359441)
Hmm, yeah well my insurance paid for the rental, so I don't know what sort of fee they were charged. By "they," of course I really mean "me," since I ultimately paid for the bump with my premiums.

EDIT: I take that back, insurance only covered a co-pay on the rental, some set dollar amount per day. That was annoying, since the jackasses at the body shop fixing my car were so late with everything. Seriously... call them on Monday, they'd say they just ordered the parts and the car should be ready on Friday. Call them on Thursday and they'd say they forgot to order a part and it'd be ready next Tuesday. Call them the next Monday... well, you get the idea. Sorry for the rant.
   8. Steve Sparks Flying Everywhere Posted: October 20, 2009 at 05:12 PM (#3359447)
This is idiocy. Elite players reach the majors in their early 20s because they have elite tools and skills, and demonstrate that they are beyond the level of minor league ball. You can't force non-elite prospects into that status by arbitrarily promoting them.


I agree with you, but is it possible that they're trying to inflate the worth of their prospects? So when they need to make a trade, some stupid GM will trade for someone who really isn't that good?

I think the age cutoff depends on whether you're coming out of college or high school. I'm assuming college players get a little more slack.
   9. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: October 20, 2009 at 05:22 PM (#3359459)
If you want to inflate the worth of a prospect, and to somehow circumvent another organization's scouting department (which seems unlikely), it'd seem you'd do the opposite; let a guy linger at a lower level and put up monster stats, then flip him. But this seems like more of a fantasy keeper league scenario than an actual MLB one. It just depends on a guy's trajectory, background, health history, and so forth. I'd say Samuel Deduno is one of the Rockies top 10 prospects, and he was 26 in AA this year. But he has pretty terrific stuff, and could be a power bullpen arm in 2010, and have a 10 year career. Hafner, Howard, Edgar Martinez, Brian Giles, Josh Hamilton all got later entries into the show, for various reasons, and Edgar (and maybe Howard eventually) should get some serious HOF consideration. Or for pitchers, there's guys like Randy Johnson. It's just like #5 said, it's mistaking correlation with causation. It'd be like noting that some genius entered Harvard at 15, and sending your relatively bright child to college at that same age, to make her or him a genius. Most likely, you just end up screwing up whatever development potential the kid did have.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: October 20, 2009 at 05:43 PM (#3359479)
I agree with post #4, but I also think the point that Luhnow was making is that the team was too passive in the past in not promoting players as they showed they have the ability to move up.
   11. this space for rent Posted: October 20, 2009 at 06:04 PM (#3359526)
This is idiocy. Elite players reach the majors in their early 20s because they have elite tools and skills, and demonstrate that they are beyond the level of minor league ball. You can't force non-elite prospects into that status by arbitrarily promoting them.


Promoting Dan Hudson from A-ball to the majors in a single season is not "arbitrary." Whether it's the best approach or not is another question, but there is no reason to think that there wasn't a conscious decision each time he was bumped up another level.

Is there any research that suggests that players develop better or worse when they are promoted aggressively enough to struggle at each step versus when they are promoted slowly enough to succeed or even dominate at each stop? It sounds like the Cards are addressing that question, maybe even analytically, and that's a definite step forward...
   12. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: October 20, 2009 at 06:12 PM (#3359537)
I remember hearing this spring about how prospect Cody Ransom wasn't ready yet to fill in for ARod, so the sky's the limit.
   13. Jesus Luzardo Maraschino Posted: October 20, 2009 at 06:43 PM (#3359610)
Ryan Howard seems OK. He could have helped earlier though.
   14. JPWF13 Posted: October 20, 2009 at 06:51 PM (#3359621)
Is there any research that suggests that players develop better or worse when they are promoted aggressively enough to struggle at each step versus when they are promoted slowly enough to succeed or even dominate at each stop?


It sounds like the Cards are addressing that question, maybe even analytically, and that's a definite step forward...

I know more about the Mutts than the Cards, but with the Mutts, there did not seem to be any plan to ask a question like that and test it, rather there was an assumption made that "challenging" prospects was the best way to develop them....
   15. puck Posted: October 20, 2009 at 07:07 PM (#3359651)
It just depends on a guy's trajectory, background, health history, and so forth. I'd say Samuel Deduno is one of the Rockies top 10 prospects, and he was 26 in AA this year


Isn't the age issue (25-26 = not a prospect) more an issue for position players? Pitchers seem to be different animals, due to injuries and the possibility of picking up a new pitch or arm angle.
   16. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 20, 2009 at 07:26 PM (#3359690)
Is there any research that suggests that players develop better or worse when they are promoted aggressively enough to struggle at each step versus when they are promoted slowly enough to succeed or even dominate at each stop?


The Marlins have a history of promoting their hitters slowly, giving them full seasons one level at a time, and very few of their own hitting prospects have panned out. The two main guys that have panned out are Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez - and both were exceptions to the rule. Cabrera went from AA to the majors in mid-season, and Gonzalez went from low-A to AA, bypassing A. Florida also did things differently with Mike Stanton this year, bumping him to AA in mid-season where he struggled; we'll see where he starts out next year, although my guess is that he's headed back to AA.

I think that teams should promote hitters when they dominate at a level, and should move them back down only when they are clearly overmatched at a level. Most teams tend to promote hitters too slowly and demote them too quickly. OTOH, teams tend to promote pitchers far too quickly (in part because they always feel as though they are short of arms).

-- MWE
   17. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: October 20, 2009 at 07:26 PM (#3359692)
Promoting Dan Hudson from A-ball to the majors in a single season is not "arbitrary." Whether it's the best approach or not is another question, but there is no reason to think that there wasn't a conscious decision each time he was bumped up another level.


For your point to stick, I would have had to been arguing for some bizarre "never promote guys quickly" strategy. Hudson is a great example of what I was talking about; he shows that he's too good for A ball, so they promote him. He shows he's too good again, and again, and he makes it to the majors, with his skills, tools and performance as his vector. But it's not like the White Sox are saying, "Awesome, it worked so well for Hudson, let's move everyone else like that as well." The Cards guy does seem to be advocating something like that though, as if they implemented a general plan to move all, or a ton of guys, really quickly, then that would somehow be beneficial. My basic counter-argument is really simple: that each promotion, and player, as you say, should be a conscious decision. Your example and my argument aren't actually in conflict. My basic argument isn't actually about moving guys slowly or quickly, but between individual decisions based on the situation of the player (his ceiling, his raw tools, his present skills, his makeup, his fundamentals, the organization's needs, etc) on one hand, and some generalized, top-down bureaucratic mandate on the other.
   18. DCA Posted: October 20, 2009 at 08:58 PM (#3359849)
How old do you have to be to rent a car? And isn't the question better phrased, "How old do you have to be for a reputable car rental company to rent a car to you?" I've always heard the age 25 bandied about for that, but I rented a car when I was 23 with no trouble.

I rented a car at 22 and crashed it. It was a rental for work travel, and the local jurisdiction somehow didn't make a record of the accident, so I didn't pay for it in any way.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: October 20, 2009 at 11:38 PM (#3359973)
Too old to be a prospect? At least 7 years older than me. Which was just as true 20 years ago as it is today and 20 years from now.

On the other hand, nobody younger than I am should be allowed to drive. Or set foot on my lawn.

I'm not convinced prospects can't learn as well in the majors as in the minors as long as they get playing time. (I more strongly suspect that it's quite detrimental to leave a prospect at the same level after they've done well.*) But few teams can give substantial playing time to one unready prospect much less two or three. And there seems little to no point in developing a player in the majors who you don't expect to have much chance to be more than a below-average player anyway -- you're giving up too much in the short term with no payback long term.

And that's one place where the Cards' (apparent) wide strategy wouldn't seem to make sense. How many top prospects do they really have who are likely to benefit from quick promotion? Unless ... they view this as an empirical test of prospect quality that is independent of scouting, their own biases, flukey performances, etc. That is:

(1) if you are confident that you can identify the "real" prospects, then you might aggressively promote them but not worry about the others;

(2) but if you admit to a large amount of uncertainty in your evaluation of prospects, perhaps aggressive promotion (at the minors level) is a way to sort out who among the top 5-10 have what it takes.

* Roosevelt Brown is always one of my favorite examples. No, he certainly never became much of a player. And maybe he never would have. But what message does it send to a 23-year-old player who puts up a 358/401/713 line at AAA (that is not a typo) when he's not even good enough to make your roster the next year much less get a chance to start? It might explain his age 24 year (309/381/496) but he got it back together at age 25 (346/381/626). My point really isn't that Brown would have been great just that it's clear that a guy who's hitting over 300 and slugging over 600 at AAA has nothing left to learn there -- use him or trade him. (And that was all at Iowa, not Colorado Springs or the like.)
   20. phredbird Posted: October 21, 2009 at 12:05 AM (#3360004)
Once you’re able to rent a car, you’re no longer eligible to be a prospect.


what about if you buy a new mattress?
   21. ugen64 Posted: October 21, 2009 at 01:48 AM (#3360216)
I think Nolan Riemold was considered a prospect at the beginning of this season (his age 25 season if I'm not mistaken). Jeremy Guthrie took a couple years off to do missionary work - would it have been that outrageous to say he was a "prospect" when we picked him up off the waiver wire in 2007 (prior to his age 26 season)?
   22. MM1f Posted: October 21, 2009 at 06:23 AM (#3360528)
I think Nolan Riemold was considered a prospect at the beginning of this season (his age 25 season if I'm not mistaken).

No. Riemold has been considered to have good potential ever since his college days
   23. "Andruw for HoF" sure died down Posted: October 21, 2009 at 08:22 AM (#3360570)
I more strongly suspect that it's quite detrimental to leave a prospect at the same level after they've done well.*


I'm not sure I agree with this just because baseball is a sport where failing 60% of the time (to reach base) is damn good. I can see an argument for something like football or hockey or basketball, where a single player can just dominate a game and be unstoppable, but it seems you can always get better at hitting a fastball. As for your example - Brown's hitting 358/401/713, great. But... Is he blocked and would benefit from playing every day rather than platooned or used as a bench player? Do I want him to address a specific weakness - hitting curveballs, lefties, learn a different defensive position? Would he have the mental fortitude to overcome the inevitable struggles he'll face in a more difficult league? Is no one willing to offer a reasonable trade package? Not defending or criticizing the Cubs decision, but there are a lot of issues.

Promotion to the majors, I think, should be a more clear cut decision. The best 25 make the roster, regardless of salary or age. Else, the manager has legitimate beef with the GM.
   24. Jeff K. Posted: October 21, 2009 at 11:30 AM (#3360592)
There's another Mike Stanton?
   25. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: October 21, 2009 at 12:23 PM (#3360603)
There's another Mike Stanton?

Yeah, he used to be a reliever for the Yankees.
   26. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: October 21, 2009 at 12:53 PM (#3360629)
Riemold has been considered to have good potential ever since his college days

Ay Ziggy Zoomba. He was the 61st overall pick, so yeah, he's always been a prospect even if he didn't exactly speed his way to the majors.

There are any number of players who don't become regulars until their mid 20s and beyond, who excel: Edgar Martinez, Wade Boggs, Travis Hafner. A zillion guys like that. We've talked about that a million times.

I think the obvious answer is that apart from guys like Josh Hamilton and Rick Ankiel who had really bizarre paths to becoming star-quality big league position players, generally what you see in a player's mid-20s is what you're going to get. There are exceptions to the rule (Ryan Ludwick for instance), but the exceptions are rare. Guys like Hafner, Howard, Edgar Martinez, Brian Giles...it was always obvious they could hit. Even before they set foot in the big leagues, we knew they could hit.

I'm not convinced prospects can't learn as well in the majors as in the minors as long as they get playing time.

I totally agree, Walt. That's how the Indians have developed their middle infielders for the past 5-6 years and it's worked better than I could have ever imagined.

Jhonny Peralta was rushed to the majors at age 21, put up an OPS+ of 67 and looked completely lost in '03. He went back to Buffalo in '04, hit the holy living crap out of the ball (.326/.384/.493, 61 extra-base hits) for a year and then emerged in '05 with a 137 OPS+ and 63 extra-base hits in the majors.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit .249/.310/.349 as a 20-year-old in AAA in '06, had a good half-season in AAA in '07 and got called up. Played well for two months in Cleveland in '07, was absolutely awful beyond words in the first half of '08. They sent him down for about a month, recalled him, and he's hit .311/.371/.445 since. Hit 42 doubles in '08 and missed a few weeks with an injury.

In a lot of ways, it's kind of silly to expect the same kind of development from Luis Valbuena. OTOH, given the track record the Indians have with middle infielders who got rushed, it wouldn't be a complete shock.

Peralta and Cabrera both seem to have turned the corner when they got sent back to AAA, but both had extended time as 21-year-old MLB regulars who hadn't really developed yet. It would be tough to argue that the time in the majors hurt their development.

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